Motorcycle Track Guide: Jerez

Any track hosting a Grand Prix can’t be entirely shabby. Jerez has long been a MotoGP favourite and there are good reasons why

Since its first international bike meeting in 1986 it’s been a firm favourite with every racer I know and trackday riders love it just as much. You’ve might have witnessed a few last lap Grand Prix confrontations at Jerez over the years, (Doohan and Criville, Rossi and Gibernau are two that spring to mind). I was battling for third with Alex Criville and Kevin Schwantz when Criville made a desperate move on me a few corners before the chequered flag.

The spectators thought I had knocked him off so I was stoned (really?) on the slowing down lap, booed onto the rostrum and booed off the rostrum. Some key features you’ll notice are the UFO style race control on your right as you exit the pit lane, the fantastic sweep onto the back straight and the mega-fast double rights behind the pits. The track is billiard table smooth, flanked with acres of run-off and to top it all you’ll most likely be basking in hot sunshine between sessions.

Sector One: Start/Finish to Curva Sito Pons (Back Straight)

Sector One: Start/Finish to Curva Sito Pons (Back Straight)

The start/finish straight is dead level but rises up in the braking area towards the first righthander. You’ll be changing back from 5th to 2nd gear while braking down the hatched painted section on the left (all the paint is grippy here, wet or dry, since Doohan’s career-ending accident at turn four in 1999). A nice wide entry allows you to see the exit crest and you’ll then hold 2nd gear as the track flattens out then dips down to the Curva Michelin hairpin, the slowest corner on the track. Some riders use 1st gear here but holding 2nd is safer, a lot less hassle and won’t cost any time.

It’s important to get tight to the right on the exit so you can straighten out the next left kink as much as possible. As soon as you reach the next left apex, change up and roll the throttle using the entire track as you head slightly downhill and out to the right. Reaching the paint should be your cue for peeling off round the next long left and onto the short uphill straight. Still in 3rd gear your knee should be over the kerb at this left as you once again roll on the throttle shifting up to 4th gear on the exit. I try not to use all the track on the exit as this makes getting back for the left entry into the Curva Sito Pons a much easier task. Unless you are on a really hot lap, back shifting to 3rd should be enough to slow you down for this one as you’ll also scrub off speed on the uphill.

Sector Two: Curva Sito Pons to Curva Peluqui

Sector Two: Curva Sito Pons to Curva Peluqui

You’ll easily be doing more than 100mph as you clip the paint on the left before grabbing 4th gear and getting tucked in for the next long downhill section. If you’re on standard gearing you’ll get up to 5th gear but keep your eye on the scaffold bridge as this is a good braking marker to keep you safe. It’s hard on the anchors for the next 180-degree 2nd gear right which is pretty straightforward, but try to only use 2/3 of the track on the exit as the next downhill left comes up real quick making good track position on the right crucial. I short-shift up to 3rd gear for this one then close the throttle to get me back to the apex. Then it’s straight back on it as this lefthander opens out. Rush into this one and you’ll be off the track before you know it on a bucking bronco ride across the gravel (just ask Nicky Hayden or Casey Stoner).

I then hold 3rd gear and follow the white line down to the next left where a gentle dab on the brakes will settle your bike for safe entry. This exit has berm-like grip, so have the confidence to accelerate early, but again using only 2/3 of the track as you need to instantly head left for the next double righthander. In the space of a few seconds you’ll be accelerating, flicking, braking and back shifting here so building up in slow motion is advisable. You’ll be looking at two rights but treat it as one using as much track as possible between the two. The exit is tighter than it first appears so some right hand discipline is necessary to keep you safe.

Sector Three: Curva Peluqui to Start/Finish

Sector Three: Curva Peluqui to Start/Finish

A short straight takes you to Curva Alex Criville (ironically where he went down alongside me in 1992) which is a slightly off-camber 3rd gear right leading immediately into a faster on-camber right. This section is awesome; when you’re not watching your son. I watched one lap of my son Taylor coming through here at the 125cc Spanish Championship last year and walked away. It is a buzz to ride but watching your own flesh and blood on the limit here surrounded by Lorenzo wannabes is not good for your health. And when you move up to Pedrosa’s level the angles of lean and corner speed are truly mind-boggling. 

As you’re approaching the second right you can begin to open the throttle as this turn opens out uphill towards the final left onto the start/finish. You can either grab 4th gear or hold third on this approach but click back to 2nd gear using plenty engine braking on the way in. The camber will suck you in early but force yourself to the right as this will set you up perfectly for a late apex and a tidy run onto the start finish. Look for a late exit point well out of the corner and then you are home and dry.

MotoGP spec. tracks have it all. First class garages, showers, café, grandstands and safety so you can’t go wrong. There are also two top class hotels in walking distance that offer great deals for track day operators (silly money when the Grand Prix is on) and downtown Jerez has a whole lot more. Jerez airport is only 10 minutes away but unfortunately only the dreaded Lyingair flies here from the UK. I tend to grab all the track work I can muster at Jerez and can’t wait to visit the Grand Prix in May. Yup, I can’t get enough of the place.

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